Fresh from the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, the F1 circus is now en route to the second part of a challenging double-header. The Malaysian Grand Prix has been held at Kuala Lumpur's Sepang circuit since 1999 and it usually provides the year's hottest and most humid race. Ambient temperatures can reach in excess of 35°C, providing a unique challenge for drivers and engineers alike. Panasonic Toyota Racing's drivers Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli arrive in the Far East hoping for an improvement on last weekend's performance as the team bids to get its 2006 campaign on track. The team's strong performances over the last 12 months show that the potential is there to move back up the grid.
THE WHOLE SEPANG
Ralf Schumacher heads to Malaysia looking for signs of improvement after the difficulties of Bahrain.
Ralf Schumacher (Car 7): "After a disappointing performance in Bahrain we are now heading directly to Malaysia. Of course we will face completely different conditions in Sepang, where both drivers and engineers face the extra challenge of the heat and the humidity. I am going to use two to three days in Malaysia to just get used to the climate there, to work out and be in my best physical shape possible to go to the race. The facilities at the circuit are great, they are state-of-the-art and very beautiful. It's a very fast, wide, swinging track with good overtaking opportunities. I have had some great races there, so I'm looking forward to going back. I hope we can use the data we collected in Bahrain to improve our performance for the second race of the year."
ONE LUMPUR TWO
Jarno Trulli took second place last year in Malaysia but his aims are more realistic for this weekend.
Jarno Trulli (Car 8): "The Sepang circuit is one of the modern breed of F1 circuits, with facilities that are state-of-the-art. Last year's race was my favourite of the entire season, when we were able to take Toyota's first podium. Of course our form in Bahrain suggests that this year's race will be much harder. We were expecting a better start but now we have to work to improve our performance. Of course we cannot change much in time for Malaysia but hopefully we can keep up the learning process with the aim of moving up over the next few races. The new qualifying system has gone down well but we saw in Bahrain how chaotic it can be with all the traffic out at the same time."
Panasonic Toyota Racing heads to the Malaysian GP looking to learn more about its new package.
Luca Marmorini – Technical Director Engine: "Obviously the Bahrain Grand Prix was a major disappointment to everyone in the team because we were not where we hoped we would be. But the season is long and we will be pushing to improve our performance. Sepang may come a bit soon to have any major impact but we have at least collected data from the Bahrain weekend that should help us. The new qualifying system is an interesting new challenge which we enjoyed, so we hope to learn more about that over the next few races. These first two back-to-back races make for a tough start to the year because of the heat of Malaysia, which will be 20°C higher than anything we encountered during pre-season testing. Overall we have to look to these first flyaway races as a learning curve to understand our new package and the new regulations so that we can be ready to have a full package when we go back to Europe."